In this, our third year, we will focus on issues of civility and surveillance in public spaces.

Over the past few years, a series of newspaper, magazine, and blog headlines have asked “Is Civility Dead?” or “Is this the End of Civility?” The articles focus on public episodes of rudeness and intolerance that have become a theme of media coverage – sometimes going viral on social media. Do these episodes represent a change in the level of civility in the United States? And where do we draw the line on the issue of civility vs. civil liberties?

At the same time, there is the related issue of surveillance in public spaces – both in the “real world” and in cyberspace. Since 9/11, many people have been concerned about the trade-off between security and privacy. Many have accepted the fact that, in public places, they are likely to be under surveillance and that the ability of the state and of private entities to engage in such surveillance will only improve with evolving technology. But when we ponder this in conjunction with the behaviors that are caught on camera in public places and the increasing ability of humans to forget or ignore the fact that they are being watched, surveillance in public places becomes an issue worth discussing.

Project activities will include a film series (presented in collaboration with the New York State Writers Institute), a speaker series, and a faculty speakers bureau.